The amulet: good-luck charm or curse? Sam is convinced he would already be dead without it.
Ross and Ruth have everything; children, and the Running R, a large cattle ranch located on the Flathead Indian Reservation of Montana, but there are problems. Ruth is tormented by secrets that threaten their idyllic life, and Indian Court decisions have angered tribal members and threaten the fragile peace between Indians and whites.
Colonel Wolard and a regiment of the 5th Cavalry remain missing as word of the Ghost Dance spreads like a prairie fire from one reservation to another.
In the Pasayten, hidden from time in the valley of the Sematuse, Bent Grass has a startling revelation giving her apocalyptic power to bring past, present and future together, but with alarming consequences.
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Ghost Dance IIThe Amulet
By Gale A. Palmanteer
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Gale A. Palmanteer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJanis Crossing
Standing Wolf left the valley through the sacred spirit cave. His mother, Bent Grass, was at his side when he exited the mysterious cavern. She gripped his hand, releasing it only when he stepped through the opening. He clutched the amulet close to his chest as if to release it would cause him to burst into flame.
Before leaving the valley of the Sematuse, Standing Wolf discarded his white man treasures; his fine western saddle and silver inlaid bridle in favor of a red fox riding pad and a rawhide hackamore.
Dressed in elk hide pants and a deerskin shirt, fringed moccasins that rose above this calf, his long black braids dangling midway down his back, his dark eyes darting from rock to bush, one would never have guessed he had once lived with the white-clay humans. The steel-bladed Bowie knife in its leather sheath tied to his leg just above the knee and the magnificent Arabian horse he rode were the only hints that he might be anything other than just another Indian.
The trail of the lone survivor of the apocalyptic uprising was easy to follow ... his were the only horse tracks leading away from the valley. The soldier had made no attempt to cover his trail, so intent was he on simply escaping the ungodly carnage. Besides, where could he go except back to the fort?
Standing Wolf's thoughts drifted to his mother, the seer. "She is the real Messiah," he whispered to an attentive Whiskey. "The Great Spirit, Ogle Wa Nagi, is using me because I share her tlchachie, her spirit, her blood." Pride swelled in his chest and a lump formed in his throat as he pictured her in his mind.
He reached what he thought of as Roy's River, having left the outside entrance to the spirit cave. He felt a wave of sadness. He had liked Roy, scoundrel that he was. Without Roy, he would not have found his mother. Without his mother they would all be dead; Star Flower, Spotted Fawn, Little Beaver, Warm Hands even Ta-keen Eagle and Laughing Doe.
"I cannot let her down. I must find the amulet and return it to the valley," he said with conviction. "He will go back to the fort ... safety in numbers." Whiskey nodded his delicate head in agreement. "But how do I find the one with the amulet? How can I sneak into the fort?" Whiskey snorted, blowing snot into the wind, clearly irritated at being asked the hard questions.
They don't know yet.
The runaway soldier had not had time to reach the fort. Unsuspecting soldiers at the fort would have no way of knowing Colonel Wolard, Bishop Donneli and a thousand men of the 5th cavalry, nearly a third of the fort population were dead, gone, killed and whisked away by a force more powerful than any they could have imagined.
"Do you think we can catch him before he reaches the fort, big boy?"
Standing Wolf rubbed the stallion between his black ears. A descendent of Arabarb, the big horse was bred for speed and endurance but a day or two was a lot of time to make up, especially when chasing a man who was running for his life.
He nudged the powerful horse and it broke into a smooth, ground-eating gallop. A thin smile creased Standing Wolf's lips as he felt the animal under him. Never did he imagine he would ever own such an animal.
I can thank Roy for you, too.
To feel a good horse under you was a true pleasure and Standing Wolf was surprised to find the feeling exaggerated without the heavy western saddle. He really did feel like one with this great horse. Satisfied with the capabilities of Whiskey, Standing Wolf turned his thoughts to the task at hand ... catching the soldier with the amulet before he reached the safety of the fort.
As the big black Arab ate ground, Standing Wolf's sharp eyes scanned the trail ahead. He had no expectation of spotting the fleeing soldier or even his dust until they were farther down river. His hope was to catch the man once they reached the broad expanse of the sand flats. "Unless he runs his horse to death first," he muttered to the wind.
With each pounding stride, the importance of catching the soldier before he was lost among the many soldiers at the fort became more and more apparent.
If the survivor reached the fort with news of Colonel Wolard's defeat at the valley of the Sematuse they would be on high alert. He could not just walk in and say, "Hello, I am your long lost scout and I am back." Besides, someone at the fort would surely recognize him ... probably the guy with the amulet and that would, for sure, strangle his chicken.
Stopping only occasionally for water, a bite of grouse and a handful of grain for Whiskey, Standing Wolf was on pace to make a five day ride in three. His spirits soared. He should overtake the soldier on the sand flats as long as he did not run into a patrol or hunting party. Not that he feared either but it could cost him time ... something he was short on right now. Time, he thought, sometimes it is everything and sometimes it is nothing.
All he wanted right now was to catch the guy, get the amulet and get back to Star Flower, the valley and his mother, the sooner the better.
Following the same fateful route he and Roy had taken when they discovered the spirit cave and the valley of rainbows, Standing Wolf was elated when he reached the place the Indians called Janis.
"How about a short rest?" he asked Whiskey, not expecting a reply.
As the big Arab drank from the river, Standing Wolf dug a pemmican paddy from a pouch and began to reflect on the enormity of the events in the last few days.
* * *
Standing Wolf was a believer ever since the day on the way to Buffalo Story when Wakan Tanka, Great Spirit of the Sioux, spoke to him, told him to return to the circle, and bring hope to the True People even though he was a half-breed and not Sioux but Sematuse. Spirit-walker, the ghostly white shaman with the glowing yellow hair had told the Sematuse they were the chosen ones, the True People. But, Standing Wolf wondered, What about the Sioux or the Cheyenne, the Paiutes or Minneconjous? What about the Indians of the Great Lakes like the Chippewa or the Apache and Comanche of the plains?
Ogle Wa Nagi, Great Spirit of the Sematuse, did not speak directly to him as had Wakan Tanka, but rather to his mother, Bent Grass. But it was he, following her command that summoned the spirits of so many warriors to rise up against the soldiers and drive them from the valley of the Sematuse into a world without souls.
"Why me? Why not Ta-keen Eagle or Little Beaver or my mother?" Standing Wolf spoke to the slow moving, shallow river as if seeking wisdom from its dark waters.
"I am the Messiah. Ogle Wa Nagi has made it so, and my people are safe for now because of me and the Ghost Dance, but why me?"
What about Spirit-walker?
He was the one who warned the soldiers and Roy more than once, then led the armada of ghostly warriors the dance resurrected. It was he, who then destroyed them and mounted on that amazing white stallion, whisked away all the whites, except Roy and the soldier with the amulet, off to an unknown place ... maybe hell.
If there is a hell.
"There was something eerily familiar about that shaman," Standing Wolf mused. The whole experience defied any attempt at a logical explanation.
Standing Wolf was yanked from his reverie by an ear-splitting whinny emitting from somewhere deep in Whiskey's gullet. The blaze-faced Arab held his head high, pointy ears aimed directly across the river.
Scanning the strange rock formations to the east, his gaze was drawn to what appeared to be moving bushes. The green shrubs seemed to scurry about only to stop occasionally as if halted by an unknown order.
Whiskey again sent a chrill signal echoing off the shear bluffs and up the deep-ragged canyon across the river. "What is it, boy? Are there horses over there?" Standing Wolf asked quietly. He watched in bewilderment as the top of the layered-lava bluffs came alive with moving green trees and shrubs.
Grasping Whiskey's mane, he sprung easily aboard the big Arab. "There is something very odd over there." His curiosity was peaked but he had a mission. "I do not have time to chase after a trick my eyes must be playing on me." Whiskey bolted, nearly unseating his agile rider.
"Ieeeyah! Ieeeyah, Ieeeyah!" The unmistakable cries of warriors on attack were interrupted by the rapid bursts of gunfire.
Standing Wolf pressed his right knee against Whiskey's side, turning him toward the river. Curiosity turned to urgency. As the big horse hit the river, shallow in the August heat, Standing Wolf's mind raced to assess the situation. It sounded like a fight but who would be fighting? His people, the Sematuse, were all in their valley ... of that he was sure. Whatever was happening amidst the odd rock formations across the river had the distinct sound of war. Clearly there was a battle going on between whites and Indians and it was close and fierce.
Whiskey lunged out of the river on the far side and up through the dense foliage that protected its bank while Standing Wolf scanned the mouths of numerous canyons, seeking to match site with sound. The war cries continued, incessant, but the gunfire was now randomly infrequent.
Standing Wolf guided Whiskey toward the nearest and largest of the canyon openings. If there were a fight between Indian people and whites, maybe he could help. He had no idea who or how but with his newly bestowed status and the amulet, he had to try.
As Whiskey carried him farther up the canyon, the sounds he sought became muffled and distant. "Are we in the wrong canyon?" he questioned Whiskey. Slowing the Arab to a smooth walk, he focused, trying to locate the origin of the fading yelps. Discouraged and frustrated he pulled the horse to a halt.
"If I am Standing Wolf, Messiah, the Chosen One sent to save all Indian people, then why can I not tell which canyon the sounds are coming from?" His words were lost in the labyrinth of crevices and canyons known as Janis.
Turning back, he headed for the river. Upon exiting the canyon, the yelps became infrequent and the gunfire ceased. Riding down river at an easy lope, his eyes scanned the rocks and crevices for any movement.
Whiskey saw it first ... his steady gallop interrupted by a sideways leap, his alert ears riveted on the rider-less horse headed their way.
The frightened animal shied away from Standing Wolf and Whiskey as it turned up river. Standing Wolf recognized the smooth pommel and skirt-less stirrups as a McClellan enlisted man's saddle, the kind used by the 5th Cavalry, the kind used by Colonel Wolard's troops.
His anxiety level elevated and he wondered ... Are troops from Fort Okanogan looking for the colonel and if so, what happened in this rocky canyon? Without hesitation he urged Whiskey forward, backtracking the wide-eyed mount that just passed him without a rider.
The trail was easy for an experienced tracker like Standing Wolf to follow and had it not been made by a rider-less horse, he might have worried about being led into a trap.
Less than a mile in, the canyon narrowed and large boulders were strewn about the canyon floor so he slowed Whiskey to a cautious walk. His eyes wandered anxiously up and down the smooth, weather-polished walls of the deep ravine and a chill crawled up the back of his neck. His eyes returned to the boulders ... some as large as a horse, scattered about the dusty canyon bottom. The chill persisted, now accompanied by an empty feeling in his gut.
Just beyond the boulders, Standing Wold saw horses ... dead horses. Strewn amidst the equine slaughter were men ... naked, dead men. Dismounting, he examined the carnage. The men were white, clean-shaven with short hair.
Some were scalped, which was not a common practice among the Indians of the Okinakane, but then neither was it common to attack a military patrol.
Leading Whiskey through the trail of dead horses and soldiers, the canyon made a turn to the right. Rounding the bend, Standing Wolf stopped in his tracks. There were more dead men, white men, but these men wore beards and long hair. He saw half-a-dozen wagons and dead horses with double trees still hooked to leather harnesses.
Most of the dead men had arrows protruding rudely from their still bleeding bodies, some with their throats cut, others missing genitals cut from their naked bodies with dull flint knives. Wandering through the grotesque scene looking for any sign of life, he came to more large boulders blocking his way.
"This was a trap," he stated, as if he needed convincing.
Rocks had been rolled off the bluffs into the narrow ravine blocking the advancing wagon train, then behind them closing off any chance for escape.
"This was a wagon train with a military escort," he told the black Arab.
No women or children. If there were, they must have been taken captive. As a scout for Colonel Wolard, Standing Wolf spoke with most of the bands of the upper Okinakane. They were not a hostile people but they were possessive of the land they believed was a gift from the Great Spirit for them to hunt and fish.
It struck him as odd that there were no bodies of braves killed in this battle. Could this have been an ambush so well planned and effective that no Indians were killed? He had heard the gunfire. Did all of the gunshots miss their mark or did the warriors take their dead with them?
Standing Wolf remembered telling the colonel, "If there was going to be trouble moving any Indians onto the Sand Flats it will come from those up north, farther from the Columbia."
Of course none of that mattered now, not after that fateful day in the valley of the Sematuse.
* * *
Where are the Indians? He wondered ... Were there any survivors? Why the brutality?
The Indians of the Okinakane might fight to protect their way of life but he could not imagine them mutilating their victims. They would be more likely to honor them for having died bravely.
"Something is very wrong here," he told his equine companion who shook his noble head in apparent agreement. "If any of the northern bands did this they have gone crazy," he whispered to himself thoughtfully. He wondered if news of what happened in the valley could have somehow reached the Okinakane, inciting such violent action.
Standing Wolf realized he had a decision to make. He could easily track the perpetrators of this attack and find out who they were and why they acted so violently, or he could return to the pursuit of the soldier with the amulet ... his only reason for leaving the valley of the Sematuse.
When put in perspective the decision was easy. The one with the amulet held the secret to the valley and possibly the future of his people. He had an obligation to his mother, to Star Flower and all of the Sematuse.
The attack on this wagon train and the mutilation of the dead bodies was very curious to him but someone else would have to solve this mystery.
With a light touch of his heels to Whiskey's ribs, Standing Wolf urged the animal into a swift gait. Precious time was already lost if he was to catch the amulet thief before he reached the fort.
They crossed the river just above what would be rapids in higher flows but were now barely white water rivulets. Heading south his thoughts returned to his mission. So transfixed had he been by the canyon scene that he lost track of time.
He easily picked up the trail where he last left it and tried to focus on making up ground that was lost. His thoughts were divided. He had to get the amulet and return it to the valley but he could not shake the vision lingering in his head.
The brutality and mutilation was so unlike any of the bands he met as a scout. It was a small wagon train of only a few wagons and it looked as though each wagon was occupied by just one driver. "Why would such a small train merit a military escort? Who were the soldiers? Had they come from the fort?" He asked the questions aloud as if hoping for answers from a shaman or spirit.
Choo-pin-it-pa-loo. Could the train have been ambushed by the feared, People of the Mountains, believed by some to live in the vast upper reach of the Okinakane?
Standing Wolf remembered his encounter with Little Moses. Were not the People of the Mountains his people, the Sematuse ... or were they imaginary? Were they a figment in the minds of the superstitious tribes along the Columbia and Okanogan?
Excerpted from Ghost Dance II by Gale A. Palmanteer Copyright © 2010 by Gale A. Palmanteer . Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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